Melbourne Victory looks to reach a third Westfield W-League Grand Final when it hosts Perth Glory at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Winner of the Premier’s Plate, Victory is bidding to reach the decider for the first time since 2013/14.
Victory has enjoyed a stellar season, setting a club record for most points (24) in a campaign and finishing four clear at the top.
It goes into the Semi Final on a five-match unbeaten run that includes two 2-1 wins over Perth Glory.
A much-changed Victory played out a 0-0 draw with Canberra United in its final game of the regular season on Tuesday.
Victory finished the regular campaign with the equal best defence in the league, conceding just 15 goals in 12 games, and unbeaten at home.
In attack, it has been led by captain Natasha Dowie, playmaker Christine Nairn and winger Emily Gielnik.
Dowie (nine goals and two assists), Nairn (four goals and four assists) and Gielnik (four goals and one assist) have starred in the attacking third.
Victory regains centre-back Samantha Johnson from suspension for the Semi Final, while Laura Alleway and Dani Weatherholt were rested for the trip to Canberra.
Dowie, Nairn and Gielnik all came off the bench during the draw as Victory looked ahead to its first final since 2014.
Head coach Jeff Hopkins’ pre-match thoughts
on the midweek game…
“It was a little bit scary at first with Lia (Privitelli) going down with a head injury and we had to bring Emily on a little bit earlier than we expected, but we were able to manage that. In terms of keeping players fresh and getting the balance right, we just about did it, but also in terms of seeing where our players that haven’t played much are, they’re in very, very good nick, very, very good condition, fitness-wise they’re sharp and they’re ready to go and they’re ready to play as well, which is a real bonus, actually knowing that rather than thinking it. If we didn’t have this game, I would’ve maybe had a few question marks on the ability of some of the players to throw them in, just in their match sharpness, but I was very, very impressed. It’s really a credit to the way they’ve been looking after themselves all season. I’m really pleased with that.”
on home form…
“I think that’s been one of the differences with us this season, our home form has been excellent. Obviously for us, it’ll give us a lot of confidence going into the game, we’re now coming into games at home expecting to win, which is great for our self-confidence and the belief of the team. But, also, I’m thinking we’re going to get a good crowd this weekend and that obviously makes a huge difference to us, to get behind us and to motivate us, but also maybe a little bit intimidating for the opposition as well. It’s a big thing having a home draw and we need to take advantage of it.”
on meetings with Perth this season…
“Both really good games of football. I think in the first game, I think most probably one of our best performances of the season. We were 2-0 up and we were quite dominant and they scored late on and caused us a few problems late on in the game. They’re a good side right the way through, but they’ve definitely got that X-factor and even when you’re on top of them, you can never really relax. I think the second game was pretty similar. We started the game off really well, got a couple of goals up and they came back and came strong. Although we’ve won both games and although we’ve had periods of the games where we’ve really dominated them, they’re definitely a team that you can’t relax with and they’re always in the game with the type of game that they play. I think it’s going to be a very similar game and again we’re looking forward to it. The players have done what they had to do, played this midweek game, got a good performance there, got it out of the way and now we’re really looking forward to an exciting game on the weekend and playing at AAMI Park is great for us as well. It’s a great surface to play on and in the games we’ve played already, by the second half of the game and the end there’s been a decent crowd as well. It’s always great to play at home in front of a good crowd so we’re looking forward it.”
Westfield W-League 2018/19 Round 14
Perth Glory 1-2 Melbourne Victory
Friday, February 1, 2019
Dorrien Gardens, Perth
Victory clinched its first ever Westfield W-League Premier’s Plate after beating Perth last week.
First-half goals from Nairn and Gielnik set Victory up and it held on despite Sam Kerr’s header.
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Kick-off: 2.00pm AEDT